Catching up on a couple things before the regular season resumes...
Right before I took off for Canada (more on that in a bit), a bunch of us White Sox bloggers talked to Dan Fabian, the White Sox's senior director of baseball operations. People of our ilk know him as the Sox's primary analytics guy, but he does just as much with scouting reports, which is a point he is quick to emphasize.
Poor WiFi north of the border, thwarted my attempt to get to this over the weekend, but Grab Some Bench posted a near-complete transcript of the conference call. Among the highlights:
Play-tracking: Here's one area where we know just about as much as everybody else, because Fabian said "MLBAM sort of sprung that on all of us a little bit."
Catcher framing: Fabian said the recent Baseball Prospectus article on catcher framing has roped in the run valuation to a reasonable level. "Some of the stuff that's out there, you look at it and definitely go, "Wow, that's a lot of runs for, you know, 40 pitches." But I think the Prospectus article was definitely more in line, and like I said, some of the stuff we've done internally too. We feel pretty good about where we're going with it."
Instant replay: It's going to take a while to firm up results, but the early read is that Robin Ventura shouldn't conserve his challenge if he feels a strong need to use it early in the game, because challenge-worthy situations just aren't all that frequent, although Bruce Bochy may disagree after Tuesday night.
The draft: Picking third has changed the Sox's process considerably from previous years:
We have our list of the top five guys that Doug Laumann and Nick Hostetler and all of our cross-checkers have been really focused upon. On our primary targets we basically have a scout just about at every one of their games when we can. We're an experienced group. Doug is definitely focused on Pick Three. We're making sure that we're really focused high and trusting our staff as we get deeper into the draft, because we've got good scouts who have gotten good players later in the draft, too. The last couple drafts, we've been really happy around here with the players we've gotten even into the middle and later rounds.
It's a different process. When you're picking (No.) 20, it's a lot of guesswork with who's going to make it. Picking third, you kind of have a pretty good idea of who the playing field is, and you're able to focus down on, and that's what Doug and his staff have been doing so far this year.
In Canada, I was able to cross Olympic Stadium off my list, which is pretty difficult to do these days. Montreal hosted a pair of exhibition games between the Blue Jays and the Mets, 20 years after the strike halted what could've been the start of a franchise-defining run for the Expos. They had the best record in baseball through 114 games (74-40) before the labor dispute killed the season.
White Sox fans know what that's all about, especially before 2005. Even though the Yankees and Indians were also formidable, I always primarily thought the never-played World Series was destined to bring together the Sox and the Expos. Perhaps because the strike hammered both franchises harder than the rest of baseball, save for maybe the Royals.
I moved within driving distance of Montreal too late to see the Expos, but the exhibition games offered a chance to head to my second-favorite city and get on the experience of French-first baseball somehow. Plenty of other people took them up on it. The official count says 96,350 showed up over two days to pay tribute to two groups of Expos -- Montreal baseball legends in the first game (with the late Gary Carter getting the biggest tribute), and the 1994 team in the second. I caught the latter, and rating the ovations received by various members the team:
Olympic Stadium is ... well, it's an engineering marvel, but baseball can't go back there. The seats were constructed with the minimal amount of materials, including only one armrest, which was my only real problem in terms of game enjoyment. I didn't mind other things, like questionable lighting, an 8-bit scoreboard and an outfield arrangement that looked like it could be rolled away at any time, but I imagine investors would. At least there were no reports of falling concrete this time.
Warren Cromartie, who was on hand for the games, is leading a group to advocate the return of Major League Baseball, but it'll take an enthusiastic gazillionaire and/or real estate group to make it happen, because waffling, noncommittal ownership is what cemented the Expos' fate the first time around. Judging by the response to the Washington Nationals and Winnipeg Jets, I'm guessing the fans would do more to get involved in the sequel, knowing what they've lost. It wouldn't take a major improvement on their pre-strike attendance to be a significant step up from the level of tangible interest in both Florida teams (the Rays drew 11,000 to the second game of the season).
We do know that 96,350 fans paid for two games of meaningless baseball, which says something about the appetite. And thanks to Jack Moore at Getting Blanked, we have an idea of the sound they can make: